The Art of War

The administrative areas at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts can be rather labyrinthine, and are also closed off to the general public, so Corine Wegener, the diminutive assistant curator for the Department of Architecture, Design, Decorative Arts, Craft, and Sculpture, agrees to meet me outside the gift shop. After we pass through the security doors […]

Force of Habit

The bells have been ringing for thirty minutes, but it is the sound of a cane rattling through the empty, cavernous church that suggests prayer. It is held by an old man, his stooped body covered in the flowing black habit of a Benedictine monk. He enters from the sacristy, clicking, clacking, up a barely […]

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Mine Over Matter

At 7:20 a.m., on a hilltop overlooking the wooded highlands in Minnesota’s Iron Range, a dozen men and women emerge from parked cars, some wide awake in flannel and Carhartt, some weary in khakis and button-down shirts. A few discuss the Wild and the politics in nearby Ely; others trouble over germanium crystals and liquid […]

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Got a Permit For That Hairdo?

When Frank Weiland walks into a barbershop, he’s typically not looking for a trim. “I look for the shop license,” he explains. “Then I look for the individual licenses.” For the last eleven years, Frank Weiland has served as Minnesota’s only barber inspector. He’s in rare and elite company. Weiland’s predecessor held the job for […]

Is 3M 2SEXY4U?

Minnesota’s most venerable company landed one of the biggest private contracts ever awarded by the Chinese government. And promptly lost it, because of—what else?—sex and cars. The Orient promises untold riches. And yet for centuries those riches have remained untold. From Marco Polo to AOL, Queen Victoria to General Motors, the history of foreign investment […]

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The Real Pat Awada

It’s late afternoon and State Auditor Pat Awada is negotiating southbound traffic on 35E in her white Jeep Cherokee, one hand on the wheel, the other occupied with a Marlboro Light that she ashes out her open window. She brushes a length of long blonde hair from her deep blue eyes and considers the impact […]

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Demolishing Modernism

The first 30 feet of Fairway Drive run between six-foot hedges before halting at an iron gate. Visitors who activate the callbox are asked to identify themselves and the residence to which they are traveling. If the visitor has been invited by someone behind the gate, the iron bars swing open with a soft, slow […]

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Superdevalued

It started as a tiny inventory issue four years ago, no big deal. So why has their stock taken a billion-dollar tumble? And why won’t anybody just say it like it is? It’s not exactly Enron, but there’s something funny going on at Minnesota’s venerable, publicly-owned grocery supplier. The Hopkins Police Department is headquartered in […]

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Mid-Afternoon Express

There is no such thing as “Shaanxi Nice.” For three weeks, I’ve tried to make an appointment with someone—anyone, really—in Shaanxi’s provincial government building on the basis of being a Minnesotan. Obviously, Minnesota residency doesn’t get me far in most Chinese cities. But Shaanxi is not most Chinese cities. In fact, it’s not a city […]

Aiming to Please

Paul is an affable retired orthodontist who, between firing rounds from his .45, is conscientious enough to sweep up the spent shell casings that have accumulated around his lane at Bill’s Gun Range in Robbinsdale. Two lanes down, a couple of bumbling boys just out of their teens, “first-time shooters,” as Paul describes them affectionately, […]